The strongest typhoon to hit South Korea in years on Tuesday dumped a meter (3ft) of rain, destroyed roads and brought down power lines, but the death toll of three could have been higher without proactive evacuations and school closures, officials said.
The public was also more aware of the storm and its risks. Typhoon Hinnamnor had an impact just weeks after heavy rains around the capital Seoul caused flooding that killed at least 14 people.
Government officials had put the nation on high alert for days as they approached Hinnamnor, warning of potentially historic destruction and implementing rescue measures.
After skimming the resort island of Jeju and making landfall near the port city of Busan, Hinnamnor weakened as it blew through the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
South Korea’s meteorological agency said Hinnamnor was over high seas 280 kilometers (173 miles) northeast of Ulleung Island with weakened winds 115 kilometers (71 miles) adrift. time Tuesday afternoon.
It was expected to be downgraded to an overnight tropical cyclone as it moves northeast between Russia and Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the agency said.
However, damage was still severe in the southern city of Pohang, where two people were found dead and at least seven others missing after the storm submerged roads and buildings, triggered landslides and flooded a shopping mall. .
Cars with broken windows and open trunks lay strewn on the roads like garbage. An entire two-story pool villa was uprooted from the ground and swept away by flash floods.
Troops were deployed to help with rescue and restoration efforts, moving in armored vehicles rolling through streets that turned into chocolate-colored rivers.
Firefighters navigated flooded neighborhoods in rubber swagger, saving people and their pets.
Merchants rushed to scavenge furniture and other goods at the famous Guryongpo open-air market, where workers deployed diggers to clear huge piles of debris.
Rain and flooding eroded the foundations of bridges and highways, which were often broken into pieces or blocked by fallen trees and utility poles.
Factory buildings tilted, while a shipping container exploded and landed on top of cars in a parking lot.
“I woke up at 5 a.m. to the explosive rain, and I got really worried because the water came up to my door,” said Kim Seong-chang, a resident of Pohang, in an interview with JTBC.
“The water was still thigh high at 7 a.m. And those who parked their cars on the streets were in a panic because their vehicles were submerged. Other residents were draining water from their homes.” The storm has dumped more than 105 centimeters (41 inches) of rain in central Jeju since Sunday, when winds peaked at 155 km/h (96 mph).
Southern and eastern parts of the mainland also suffered damage – toppled signs and roofs, toppled trees, road signs and destroyed roads.
In Pohang, a woman in her 60s died after being swept away by flash floods, while another woman in her 60s was found dead in a submerged basement parking lot where a search was underway for seven people.
Rescuers did not respond to another man who called for help before he disappeared, believed to be swept away by flash floods.
In nearby Gyeongju, a woman in her 80s died after her home was buried in a landslide.
In Ulsan, another southern city, a 25-year-old man was reported missing after falling into a rain-swollen stream, according to the Interior and Security Ministry.
Also in Pohang, firefighters extinguished flames that damaged at least three facilities at a large steel plant operated by POSCO.
A presidential official, who spoke on condition of anonymity during a briefing, said officials were investigating the cause of the fires.
Local firefighters said the flames destroyed a building housing electrical equipment and damaged a separate office building and a coke plant before being extinguished.
The Ministry of Security said about 3,200 of the 4,500 people who had been forced to evacuate returned home on Tuesday afternoon.
More than 80 homes, buildings and factories were flooded or destroyed, and hundreds of roads, bridges and facilities were damaged.
More than 600 schools have been closed or converted to online classes. Workers had managed to restore electricity to 78,890 of the 89,180 homes that had lost power.
In North Korea, state media reported “every effort” to minimize damage from floods and landslides.
Korea’s Central News Agency reported that leader Kim Jong Un in government meetings had issued unspecified “detailed tasks” to improve the country’s disaster response capability, but he did not specify the plans.
North Korea suffered severe damage following heavy rains and floods in 2020 that destroyed buildings, roads and crops, shocking the country’s already crippled economy.
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